Speaking of Writing

Selected Hopwood Lectures
Nicholas Delbanco, Editor
Essays on the art of writing by some of the nation's finest writers


Essays on the art and craft of writing by some of the nation’s finest writers make up this rich collection, from Louise Bogan’s meditation on popular and unpopular poetry, to Saul Bellow’s assessment of the future of fiction, to Francie du Plessix Gray’s reflection on womenand Russian literature. Spanning five decades of writing, the essays address topics both timely and timeless in nature, and cover both the process and the product of writing.
These essays were originally presented at the Hopwood Lecture series at the University of Michigan in conjunction with the annual awarding of the Hopwood Prizes in creative writing. The internationally recognized awards are granted by the bequest of playwright Avery Hopwood (1884-1928), who sought to encourage student work in the fields of dramatic writing, fiction, poetry, and the essay. The essays speak to the apprentice writer, finding their focus in a twinned discussion of the craft of prose and the art of poetry. The authors share an assumption that literature matters, and vitally, to the culture it reports on and sustains.

Praise / Awards

  • "I don't know when I have read a book as avidly as Nicholas Delbanco's anthology of former Hopwood lectures, Speaking of Writing. Writers in America, dispersed as we are, starve for shoptalk, and this collection is like having a wonderful conversation about literature with an impressive and admired group of predecessors on this podium."
    —Diane Johnson, Michigan Quarterly Review

Look Inside


Introduction: "To the Young Writer" (Nicholas Delbanco, 1989) - 1
Literature and Animal Faith (Robert Morss Lovett, 1932) - 7
Literature  in and Age of Science (Max Eastman, 1933) - 21

Literature versus Opinion (Henry Hazlitt, 1935) - 34
The American Tradition in Contemporary Literature (Henry Seidel Canby, 1940) - 48
On Counting Your Chickens before They Hatch (Edward Weeks, 1941) - 61
Poetry as Primitive Language (John Crowe Ransom, 1942) - 73
Popular and Unpopular Poetry in America (Louise Bogan, 1944) - 84
The Responsibilities of the Critic (F.O. Matthiessen, 1949) - 101
In Defense of a Writing Career (Norman Cousins, 1950) - 115
The Possible Importance of Poetry (Mark Van Doren, 1951) - 125
The Young Writer, Present, Past, and Future (Stephan Spender, 1953) - 135
"Why Can't They Say What They Mean?" (Archibald MacLeish, 1955) - 148
The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry (Howard Nemerov, 1959) - 163
Where Do We Go from Here: The Future of Fiction (Saul Bellow, 1961) - 177

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 404pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1990
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06422-9

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  • $26.95 U.S.